That Blasted Year
IT WAS A MOMENTOUS YEAR, a year of events that will echo in the annals of history the way a dropped plate of calamari echoes in an Italian restaurant with a tile floor. Decades from now, our grandchildren will come to us and say, "Tell us, Grandpa or Grandma, as the case may be, what it was like to be alive in the year that Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears and Katie whats-hername all had babies, although not necessarily in those combinations." And we will smile wisely and emit a streamer of drool, because we will be very old and unable to hear them.
And that will be a good thing, because there are many things about 2006 that we will not want to remember. This was the year in which the members of the United States Congress, who do not bother to read the actual bills they pass, spent weeks poring over instant messages sent by a pervert. This was the year in which the vice president of the United States shot a lawyer, which turned out to be totally legal inTexas. This was the year in which -- as clearly foretold in the Bible as a sign of the Apocalypse -- Howie Mandel wound up with a hit TV show.
Also, there were many pesky problems left over from 2005 that refused to go away in 2006, including Iraq, immigration, high gas prices, terrorism, global warming, avian flu, Iran, North Korea and Paris Hilton. Future generations are going to look back at this era and ask us how we could have allowed Paris Hilton to happen, and we are not going to have a good answer.
. . . a month that dawns with petty partisan bickering in Washington, D.C., a place where many people view petty partisan bickering as honest, productive work -- like making furniture. The immediate cause of the bickering is the Republican ethics scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, both of whom you can tell, just by looking at them, are guilty of something. The Democrats charge that the Republicans have created a Culture of Corruption and should be thrown out of office so the Democrats can return to power and run the scandal-free style of government for which they are so famous. The Republicans respond that the Democrats are soft on terrorism, soft on terrorism, soft on terrorism, soft on terrorism. Both sides issue news releases far into the night.
The other big focus of the bickering is the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. As always, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings provide high-quality TV entertainment as the nation tunes in to see whether Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will be able to successfully remember the nominee's name. The bulk of the hearings are spent in the traditional manner, with Democrats trying to trick the nominee into revealing his views on abortion, and Republicans reminding the nominee that he does not have to reveal his views on abortion. The subsequent exchange of news releases is so intense that several government fax machines burst into flames.
In the War on Terror, Osama bin Laden, who may or may not be dead, nevertheless releases another audiotape, for the first time making it downloadable from iTunes. Bin Laden also starts a blog, in which he calls upon his followers to destroy the corrupt infidels and also to try to find out how a person, hypothetically, can get Chinese food delivered to a cave.
In the Middle East, Palestinian voters elect the militant Hamas party, which assumes control of government functions such as street repair, which Hamas decides to handle by firing rockets at potholes. Canada also holds elections, which are won by some Canadian, we assume.
In economic news, the big story is the retirement of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who, after 19 years as the person most responsible for guiding the American economy, steps down, taking with him the thanks of a grateful nation and a suitcase containing $11 billion. But the financial news is not so good in . . .
. . . when President Bush, delivering what is billed as a "major address on energy policy," reveals that the nation has an "addiction" to "foreign oil," which comes from "foreign countries" located "outside of the United States" that are getting this oil from "under the ground." To combat this problem, the president proposes the development of "new technology" in the form of "inventions" such as "a Lincoln Navigator that gets 827 miles per gallon," although he allows that this could take "time."
But this bold energy initiative does not get nearly as much attention as the administration's decision to allow a company owned by the United Arab Emirates to operate some U.S. seaports. This outrages Congress, which briefly ceases partisan bickering to demand that the White House return control of the ports, in the interest of national security, to Tony Soprano.
Speaking of guys who avoid the limelight: Vice President Dick Cheney, attempting to bring down a quail with a shotgun, shoots attorney Harry Whittington. Local authorities rule the shooting was an accident, noting that if the vice president were going to intentionally shoot somebody, it would be Nancy Pelosi. The quail is eventually tracked down and vaporized by an F-16.
Internationally, the big news comes from Denmark, center of a mounting furor over some cartoons, published the previous year in a Danish newspaper, that depict a prophet whom, in the interest of not offending anybody, we will refer to as Fohammed. This upsets several million of the prophet's followers, who request a formal apology from the newspaper, greater sensitivity to their religious beliefs and, where necessary, beheadings. Eventually everybody realizes that the whole darned thing was just a silly misunderstanding. That is all we are going to say about this.